It’s easy to think of bones as sturdy, rigid white pillars that sit still inside of muscle and skin, dignified as distant diplomats. They’re the foundation of vertebral form, building the framework of our makeups yet barely meant to see sunlight, save for smiling. With shapes that vary and are shared from species to species, all ensuring proper construction of stature, bones are the discreet machinery required to synthesize and support the current of blood that runs through the rest of the system.
Bone is a dynamic tissue, meaning that it never stays completely still. Every day, a little bit of bone is released into the blood and (with properly functioning genes, hormones, the necessary nutrients, and something subtly spiritual) will then be completely reformed. Bones display the power and the potential danger of hardening. Ossification is the word that describes the process of calcifying the material that develops into bone when a little bit of it is carefully eroded. With a touch of mismanagement, other organs and tissues can calcify, but are then rendered useless, a nuisance, lethal even. Nothing hardens as gracefully as bone. Nothing else needs to petrify so intently within us that it is set up for excavation a millennia ahead. Ultimately, we are mobile cathedrals of calcium and other substances, earthbound and ephemeral and eventually returning everything inside back to that from which we came with heroic bones proving our existence long after words whittle away and soft tissues are churned into dirt.
Some people go a lifetime without seeing a physical fraction of what’s at their structural core, but spend a large portion of their existence silently giving to and taking from their own bones, exchanging calcium and phosphate and magnesium and fluoride and manganese and so on and so forth to balance the blood. There’s a good chance it’s happening right now.
When we talk about bones we can’t go much deeper. To feel something to the bone is to officially know that every existing iota is dedicated to a thought, feeling, or instinct. Working to the bone implies utmost exhaustion of energy, physical or mental. To cut something to the bone is to reduce it to naught more than the absolute minimum. When it comes down to it, they represent nothing and everything all at once.
Hardsturdystrong as they are, bones need to be cushioned and covered, as the possibility of being stripped to the minimum would render a creature so bare, so exposed that everything you are would be visible and skin would sink in between the cracks and you would shortly thereafter become nothing but an ossified memory.
There’s a lot of hubbub about bones and their broth these days and it’s well-deserved. Centuries have proven broth to be the sumptuous soul of so many dishes, the core of comfort food, the distillate of warmth. It’s August, which probably means that a recipe for broth won’t go very far, but I’ve got a feeling coming from somewhere that it doesn’t matter because it is timeless and temperatureless and will make you glow and it freezes fantastically for later use. So, come on, do the thing…just get:
2-3 pounds of bones (chicken feet/necks/wings/whole or beef usually)
a few chopped up vegetables (1 onion, 2 celery, 2 carrots, a few mushrooms, you get the idea)
a few handfuls of chopped herbs (parsley, oregano, rosemary, go wild; fresh is best but dried will do)
a blob of butter or ghee or coconut oil (depends on your preference)
4-6 whole peppercorns or a few grinds of the mill
2-3 teaspoons of turmeric
a bay leaf
a small strip of kombu (it’s seaweed, but doesn’t taste weird. just trust me here, minerals galore)
a small splash of vinegar (easy does it)
a pinch of salt..plus another pinch, until it’s delicious to you
now put on some good tunes (whatever this means to you) and put alll the above ingredients in a pot, probably one of the bigger pots you own. cover everything with water until it’s about an inch over all the ingredients. bring the whole lot to a boil and turn back the heat until the boil settles out of court to a mild simmer. just to clarify, a simmer means that small bubbles are breaking the surface of the water somewhat quickly, usually at the sides of the pot. so keep it there, at a simmer, the longer the better, stir it up here and there. every hour allows for optimal permeation of vitamin, mineral, animal, spirit, vegetable to diffuse into the water. slow cookers can go for 8-12 hours. on the stove, however, i usually top off at 4-5. when you turn off the heat, you have broth. strain it, eat it, use it in other recipes, or store it for later in the freezer.
broth = flavor. any savory recipe that uses water can benefit from replacement with broth. or, heat up the broth, add rice, add noodles, add other vegetables, add cooked potatoes, add hot sauce, add some seaweed, add an egg. the possibilities are potentially endless (i wouldn’t add ice cream or doritos though..). If you’re partial to a life sans animal consumption, omit the bones, add some extra veggies and enjoy your homemade veggie broth. share it when you can, let me know what you think.